Revisiting a place has very many benefits – you can see the things missed out on your earlier trips, re-live the earlier holiday, eat more of the local tasty cuisine, check out the non-touristy sites, take this trip at a more leisurely pace and see the changes that have taken place in the intervening time frame. Last year I had a chance to revisit Amsterdam for a day (after 5 long years) and loved my second trip here. (You can read my post on the earlier trip at – Amsterdam – The City of 3Cs). Since I had seen the touristy Amsterdam on the previous trip, I spent my day just aimlessly walking around noticing the things I had missed out on my last trip and revisiting some of its famous sites. Though I still have a left to explore on my next trip (I keep figuring out things I missed through other blogs, magazines etc), I am sharing my experience of this trip via a photo essay below –
Just like my last trip I reached Amsterdam this time too via a train and the Amsterdam Centraal Station was my introduction to the city. But on my previous trip it was covered in scaffolding and protective covers due to ongoing renovation and we had not been able to see it. But the restoration work was now complete and I had a fabulous time walking around this gorgeous building.
The gorgeous Amsterdam Centraal
An important part of any trip for me is to pick up gifts and souvenirs for friends and family back at home. I love shopping for such gifts and am always on the lookout for items that are local and unique. Things that will actually take you down the memory lane revisiting that place or remind the other person (who’s been the recipient of that gift) of you and that place.
The Dutch Souvenirs in Amsterdam
No trip to Europe is complete (for me) without a visit to my friend, P in Vaals (pronounced as Faals). Vaals is a really small European town and not on the typical touristy trail (at least not for Indians) but I visit it on every trip to meet with my friends P and J and now most importantly the adorable little M. But apart from spending time with them, Vaals also has some interesting things to see and do. So here’s a quick guide on 5 things to do in Vaals if you ever find yourself in this beautiful small town in Netherlands.
Flowers at a roundabout, Vaals, Netherlands
One of my favorite things about traveling is learning newer and unique customs / things about the places I visit. And one such unique Dutch custom that I learnt of recently is Geslaagd. I came across this custom in Vaals when I staying with my friends P and J. Generally walking around town I saw school bags, note books, purses and banners (with Geslaagd written on it) hanging from flag poles, trees, doors etc in some houses. For the life of me I couldn’t understand what this was for and thought it meant some sort of spring cleaning. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I have been fascinated with Europe for a while. It all started in 2004 when my BFF, P first moved there and started sending postcards and sharing stories of a gorgeous world full of snow-clad mountains, fairy tale castles, scenic lakes, etc etc. All her stories created an image of a wonderland in my mind and I resolved to visit it as soon as I could collect some money. And as Paulo Coelho said in The Alchemist “if you truly want something, then the entire universe conspires in helping you achieve it” – well, mine sure did. After numerous failed plans, my first international trip was to Spain in 2006. And with this trip, the fascination increased.
Planning that first trip to any new continent is quite challenging. But planning that very first trip to Europe is nothing short of an overwhelming and even traumatic experience, as that first looks at the map of the continent and you are – “hmmm now from where should I start”. Even the lonely planet for this continent is super confusing with various editions like continental europe, central europe, western europe, eastern europe, Scandinavia etc etc. Phew…
Europe Map – courtesy youreuropemap.com
This is clearly because there are about 50 countries to choose from and just too many things to see and explore – so much so that you are clearly spoilt for choices. And mind you everything is beautiful and worth an experience / visit. Here each country has its own unique history, culture, art, cuisine, landscape, architecture and in most cases even within each country there are numerous regions and small things to experience.
Towards the end of our Europe trip we stayed with our friends, P & J in Netherlands and went on a day trip to Amsterdam. Though many may argue that this was a very short time for such a big city, but this was ok with us and kind of worked out better in the end.
Since we visited this city at the end of our trip, we noticed the stark differences here vis-a-vis the various other cities that we had seen. While every other city was beautiful, clean and presented its best foot forward to show off in front of us; Amsterdam had no such pretensions and showed us exactly what it is. It’s very inviting with its beautiful canals, some amazing museums, and architecture but at the same time it’s also very disturbing with the attitude of people around, the run down look of some city centric areas and the “in your face” red light areas and the sex toy shops.
Hence I feel that this is a city of extremes, either you really like it or you just don’t.